VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Boston Bruins had waited 39 long years for another drink from the Stanley Cup, and Tim Thomas was awfully thirsty.
When the Bruins and their brilliant goalie barged into a hostile Canadian rink surrounded by another 100,000 screaming fans outside for Game 7, they emerged with the championship they wanted.
Thomas made 37 saves in the second shutout of his landmark finals performance, Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand scored two goals apiece, and the Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Wednesday night for their first championship since 1972.
“I think I went even further than I thought,” Thomas said. “I never envisioned three Game 7s in one playoff series and still being able to come out on top.”
Bergeron scored the eventual winner in the first period and added a short-handed score in the second to keep the Cup away from the Canucks, who have never won it in nearly 41 years of existence. Star goalie Roberto Luongo again failed to match Thomas’ brilliance, giving up 18 goals in the last five games of the finals.
Thomas thoroughly outplayed and outclassed his Vancouver counterpart while limiting the Canucks to eight goals in seven games, blanking Vancouver in two of the last four.
Luongo, Vancouver’s enigmatic goalie, capped a brutally inconsistent series by allowing Bergeron’s crushing short-handed goal to slip underneath him late in the second period.
The Bruins leaped over the boards and headed straight for Thomas at the final buzzer, mobbing the goalie who carried them through long stretches of this postseason. The Bruins are the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 three times in the same postseason, with Thomas posting shutouts in the decisive game of the Eastern Conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals.
Captain Zdeno Chara nearly slipped when he skated away from Commissioner Gary Bettman with the Stanley Cup. And the oversized trophy eventually got a lift from Nathan Horton, the injured Boston forward whose Game 3 concussion on a late hit irrevocably swung the series momentum to Boston.
“What a feeling this is,” said 43-year-old Mark Recchi, who plans to retire after winning the Stanley Cup with his third franchise. “What a great group of guys. No matter what happened tonight, this is one of the best groups of guys I’ve played with.”
Boston dropped the first two games in Vancouver but became just the third team since 1966 to overcome that deficit.
“All the physical work we’d done throughout the whole series added up,” Thomas said. “Being the last series, we didn’t save anything, and we used that physicality again and that was the difference.”
The Bruins had failed in their five previous trips to the finals since Bobby Orr led them to championships in 1970 and 1972, losing every time.
Game 7 was another heartbreak for the Canucks, who still have never raised the Cup, and their stunned fans, who stayed by the thousands just to get a glimpse of the trophy.
Mark Messier and the New York Rangers won Game 7 in Vancouver’s last finals appearance in 1994. This time, Thomas silenced the NHL’s highest-scoring team, erased nearly four decades of Bruins playoff blunders and crushed a city desperate to take the Stanley Cup to Stanley Park.
Violence in Vancouver
Angry, drunken revelers ran wild after the Canucks’ loss, setting cars and garbage cans ablaze, smashing windows, showering giant TV screens with beer bottles and dancing atop overturned vehicles.
“It’s terrible,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said, shaking his head. “This city and province has a lot to be proud of, the team we have and the guys we have in here. It’s too bad.”
There were no immediate indications of injuries, although images were shown on television of at least one woman mopping blood from her forehead.